14 June 2006

Modern dads juggle several families

Dads of today often must arrange to visit their biological children, pay child support and help raise at least one other set of children, reports a new study.

Mike Brady, the TV dad/step-dad to the six children of The Brady Bunch, had it easy compared with many real fathers today. At least all his kids were under one roof.

Dads of today often must arrange to visit their biological children, pay child support and help raise at least one other set of children, reports a new study from the University of Michigan, USA.

"Fathers have complex lives with complex parenting obligations," says study author Pamela Smock, a demographer and sociologist at the Population Studies Centre at the university's Institute for Social Research. "An enormous number of men have multiple fathering responsibilities. What you're seeing is serial fatherhood."

The research study
Of the 649 "non-resident" fathers studied, Smock and her colleagues found almost half had a connection to at least one other set of children, and just under one-quarter had ties to more than three sets of kids.

"Non-resident" means the fathers weren't living with at least one set of their biological children. Some dads had more than one set of biological children, while others were helping to raise stepchildren that either lived with them or elsewhere.

Smock says 75 percent of divorced men who remarry will have a new set of children to care for. About 50 percent have another set of biological children. And, she says the percentages in her study are likely to be conservative because men tend to underreport this type of information in surveys.

Most fathers paid child support, although 22 percent did not. Only 30 percent of the kids saw their fathers weekly.

Smock says child-support policies need to take into account these multiple sets of children and not pit the needs of one family against another.

Irene Goldenberg, a family psychologist and the chief of medical psychology at the University of California, says the study "represents a sensitivity to a really complex problem that people don't pay enough attention to". She says it's very hard for fathers to manage and be supportive for two or more families.

Data for the study came from the US National Survey of Families and Households. The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded the study.

What to do
Goldenberg says fathers should try to include their non-custodial children in as many activities as possible, so the kids won't feel left out.

And fathers need to discuss money issues openly with both their former and current spouses. Support should be for the children who need it most, she says. If divorced parents can't discuss issues civilly, Goldenberg suggests they get outside help to resolve their problems so their children don't get shortchanged. - (HealthDayNews)

Read more:
Raising another man’s child
Involved dads help development



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